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With the Department for Transport (DfT) due to launch its consultation period on proposals to change road maintenance funding rules, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA), whilst welcoming a fundamental review of funding,  is concerned that the proposed performance-based rewarding of  funds could result in a nationwide patchwork of conflicting road standards.

Currently, local highway authorities receive central government funding for road maintenance via the Highways Maintenance Capital Block Grant. This funding allocation is based on a formula developed in 2005 and is based upon the miles of road that each highway authority has. The DfT propose that every local authority would receive a baseline settlement with additional funding being reserved for those authorities who have highway asset management strategies in place and can demonstrate increased road maintenance efficiencies.

“Whilst we welcome and encourage highway authorities to be forward thinking and adopt asset management, any new funding arrangements should take full account that different authorities are at different stages of asset management implementation”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Given that local road networks are interlinked to provide a national network, it is important that a performance-related funding mechanism does not result in a piece-meal improvement where one authority has a well-maintained road network whilst those of neighbouring authorities are poor.”

RSTA is calling for the government to acknowledge that it must increase the overall road maintenance budget before introducing two tier funding mechanisms. Robinson continued: “The potholed result of inadequate level of investment in road maintenance is, sadly, all too evident. With some £12 billion necessary to bring the road network up to standard, the lack of adequate funding for road maintenance rather than how an insufficient amount is allocated needs to be addressed first.”